"A soldier serving in Iraq lost his Frisco home to foreclosure over late homeowners association dues, renewing a debate over the power of HOAs in Texas.
The case, which has boiled over to involve a federal judge, a publicist and death threats, began when Michael and May Clauer lost their $315,000 home to foreclosure in May 2008 after falling behind on their association dues.
The Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association was initially owed $977.55 and sent multiple notices by certified mail demanding payment. All went unanswered, said David Margulies, spokesman for the association and its management company, Select Management.
The problem, according to a lawyer for the Clauers, was that Michael Clauer – U.S. Army National Guard Capt. Michael Clauer – was deployed to Iraq.
His wife, suffering from depression over her husband's absence, had let mail pile up and didn't open any of the certified letters. May Clauer and her parents owned the house mortgage-free."
This is recent news, as in this week-recent. My brother lives in Frisco. It's a great community with wonderful neighborhoods and people. When my mother told me about this story, my blood immediately boiled. Civilians do not have an appreciation for the amount of stress placed on military spouses during their loved-one's deployment.
The good news, and I guarantee this, is that the Homeowners Association (HOA) is going to get hammered by the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act. The SCRA is the federal law protecting deployed Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines from in-absentia legal proceedings, including foreclosure. There is no shelter or exemption from the SCRA. It's punitive, meant to discourage folks from taking advantage of servicemembers not present to defend themselves.
That the HOA contacted the 'military' to inquire about Captain Clauer's status is preposterous. Who'd they call? The 1-800 military-status hotline? The Department of the Army? The local National Guard Armory? I can only imagine the HOA squealing with glee when some Private Snuffee sitting behind a CQ desk told them he'd never heard of the guy. Somehow, they allegedly got hold of a memorandum stating the guy was no longer on Active Duty. Don't get me started on how easy it is to check a Soldier's status by simply checking Army Knowledge Online.
But guess what, it doesn't matter. No matter what excuse the HOA's spokesperson spins, there are NO provisions for administrative errors or mistakes in the SCRA. The HOA will get slammed, the buyer will lose his money, and the military family will keep their home.
The Federal judge has ordered all parties sit down and come to an agreement on ownership. I'll update everyone on this story when I find out more. Frankly, I hope CPT Clauer sues the HOA right out of business.
The HOA is in full damage control-mode. They hired a spokesperson. They've put their story out there, but no degree of spin-doctoring will protect the HOA from public backlash. No matter how legally-right they thought they were, this is a monstrous public relations FAIL. Their only acceptable course of action is to hand the family back the keys, reimburse the buyer, and say, 'Our bad.' But even if the want to do that, chances are the military will get involved and assist the family in their suit. There has to be substantial punitive damages. We must discourage this type of activity. It should be public, it should be expensive, and it should send a message.
Don't mess with deployed Soldiers, ever.